Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

DaBaby ft. Young Thug – Blind

The score takes some baby steps up…


[Video]
[6.00]

Jibril Yassin: It’s cool hearing DaBaby take a few tentative steps out of his usual breakneck flow, opting for a melodic, carefree delivery that finds its place with ease. But the mistake he made was inviting Thugger to croon on a spiritual cousin to “Killed Before.” Before long, the sepia-tinged snapshot turns upside down as he relives past stories of trauma and quarantine-life updates, with flashes of the surreal vocal performances he made his name on in the mid-aughts sneaking their way in at every bend. As good as DaBaby is, Young Thug outperforms him while barely lifting a finger.
[6]

Tobi Tella: Tropical beats have been out of vogue long enough to make me not immediately hate this, but I think I’m just relieved that DaBaby CAN, in fact, make another song. After a six-week number one that no one reeeeeally cared about, I’m impressed by this, even though the new tricks are just faux-introspection and going fast. Thugger, less intense and less inhibited, has the best part by far.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: A slow, ritzy swimming-pool guitar squeezes tight the bulbous bass and rickety snares. The chattering percussion slithers around DaBaby’s feet as he tries, for once, to jump on its back. Jeffrey lies back while checking that his kids don’t fall off and hurt themselves.
[7]

Alfred Soto: The second Young Thug enters with a helluva opener (“I’ve been quarantined, livin’ with my kiddies/Tryna teach me how to cha-cha, ah”), my resistance ends. DaBaby raps less smugly than has been his wont.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: DaBaby’s dynamism comes through on “Blind,” but the track lets him down; another hip hop track over an acoustic guitar loop? Ugh. 
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: Surprised it took so long for one of the hundreds of acoustic-guitar-over-trap-beats hits to reach its logical evolution: sounding like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It makes for a pleasant bit of late-summer mugginess, in which DaBaby and Young Thug the difference between good and good enough for TikTok.
[7]

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Aya Nakamura – Jolie Nana

We begin the week in France. Or on TikTok, take your pick…


[Video]
[5.71]

Jessica Doyle: After “Copines,” “Djadja,” and this, I find it hard to believe that any man has succeeded in rendering Aya Nakamura stupid, or even come close. She sells the lines about mental strength a lot better than she does the pretense of vulnerability. I am willing to believe that aspiring suitors have to submit a CV by mail, though.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: French-language rapping over a lightly reggaetòn shuffle-beat that’s pleasant and nothing more. Nakamura clearly has a flow, but not a particularly compelling one.
[5]

Juana Giaimo: Aya Nakamura’s delivery is amazing — she can go from straightforward strong vocals to more melodic high-pitched verses — but the rest of the track is quite boring.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: She sounds exhausted: more like jolie nah.
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: As a remarkably lightweight mainstream hit, “Jolie Nana” does its job, but would have done well to show a little more ambition. If Aya Nakamura were to really lean into the advert theme, have a bit more fun with it, she might have something half as memorable as “Want Ads” or “The Pina Colada Song.” As is, she gets by on over-deliberate melody, rote repetition and aqueous production.
[6]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: The song’s TikTok trend, #FautPasSeNegliger, roughly translates to “Don’t neglect yourself,” and the associated TikToks are every bit as wholesome as you might imagine: people in their sweats magically becoming dolled up, couples dancing with each other, people sans maquillage all of a sudden become looking beat for the goods, etc. “Jolie Nana” is feel-good, warm music, the aural equivalent of your best friend checking in on you when you aren’t remembering to prioritize your mental health.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Never less than pleasant, especially the three-stress repetitions, but “pleasant” isn’t what I want from the singer of “Copines.” 
[6]

Sunday, September 27th, 2020

Bonus Tracks for Week Ending September 27, 2020

Several TSJ writers have active blog presences!

Friday, September 25th, 2020

Taylor Swift – Betty

Of course, the character of Betty was first developed by Stooshe


[Video][Website]
[6.75]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: I grew up with Taylor Swift; I’ve never known a time where her albums didn’t soundtrack my life and growth. The innocence of Fearless, Speak Now and Red helped me understand love and identity; 1989 and its mega-hits soundtracked my freshman year of college tasting independence and romance; Reputation and its vitriol soundtracked my tumultuous senior year, being outed to my parents, and my first break-up; Lover and its maturity came out a year after I graduated. I can’t help, then, but listen to Folklore in the context of another life juncture: becoming a “real” adult who can’t easily access childhood and adolescence anymore, and who instead remembers the feeling of it through nostalgia and stories. “Betty,” in particular, is a story about reminiscing of childhood mistakes. James, the protagonist in Betty’s love triangle, is “only seventeen,” and has made a mess of one his first loves. Taylor is accessing this childhood naiveté and intensity of feeling through storytelling, but because she’s singing the story as an adult, she is able to layer in complex feelings — longing, heartbreak, regret, and the possibility of redemption and forgiveness — that sound beyond James’s years. The effect is arresting: as an adult who has begun to have time and perspective to understand my young life so far, I’m only now beginning to understand how these feelings have manifested in my own life. Leave it to Taylor to portray that process in a song. “Betty,” along with Folklore, will be music that I remember as helping me continuously evolve and also understand myself when I was undergoing massive changes, and music that, when the world was on fire, was a source of calm and stability when there was none to be found.
[8]

Alfred Soto: By now critics have written thousands of words about the storytelling: writing from the point of view of the other gender (as if writers in every genre haven’t been doing it for a hundred years), the tonal complexity (as if this should surprise us given the source). I want to praise the craft: the stresses on first syllables (“ri-din’ on my skate-board…”), the way the song comes to a stop at its chorus, as if to courteously allow the audience time to catch up. Yes, Taylor Swift wrote well in 2008. She’s writing better.
[9]

Thomas Inskeep: It’s a well-written story song of the kind at which Swift excels, from my favorite Swift album in years — but the faux-Americana production is like an oily film on top of a dipping sauce. And frankly, I don’t need to hear her singing yet another song about teenagers.
[4]

Tobi Tella: A seeming leftover from the Old Taylor, the harmonica and guitar are welcome in the cohesive, lo-fi pretending-not-to-be-pop production of Folklore. The intentional immaturity is a great move for her, honestly; we’ve seen over the years that there’s always been a love for… silly lyrics, and writing as a 17-year-old gets all those out while still crafting something meaningful. It’s broad and goofy, but I can’t pretend hearing that hackneyed key change for the first time didn’t feel amazing.
[8]

Juana Giaimo: “Betty” is alright. It’s probably one of the the most delicate country songs Taylor has ever written, but when I compare it to the rest of Folklore it sounds quite plain. Although it’s about a painful situation, it has a warm and bright feeling which I enjoy. It sounds as if the song still retains some of that adolescent innocence — note that she sings “I’m only seventeen” in present tense and not in past tense. Still, I don’t think I’ll get used to the harmonica.
[7]

Alex Clifton: It sounds like Dylan (the HARMONICA!!!) and is ambiguously gay, so it’s not hard for me to love “Betty.” I do not care if the narrator is a persona or this counts as queerbaiting. I am absolutely living for it. It’s really lovely hearing Taylor slip into an actual different persona. “Blank Space” and “Look What You Made Me Do” were snide joke-personas, meta-commentary on how the media viewed her as a man-eater or a villain. This is far more of a creative stretch for Taylor, and I think it pays off. It’s a vivid and interesting story, regardless of the gender of the speaker. In addition, hearing Taylor Swift sing “it’s like I couldn’t breathe” about a girl means so much more to me than I can say. I finally get my queer wish-fulfillment song where I, too, can be a love interest for a pretty singer who wants to win me back in front of all my stupid friends.
[9]

Michael Hong: “Betty” isn’t quite as apologetic as some would have you believe. At no point does Taylor Swift as “James” or whatever, actually sing the words, “I’m sorry.” She excuses with jealousy over a chaste act, insults Betty’s friends, and the best she can muster is a “you know I miss you.” The final chorus is one of the best executions of a key change in recent memory, a complete change in mood that coincides with future meeting present, Swift singing as if she’s already been forgiven. At 30, she understands people and relationships much better than she did at 18, writing something that’s ultimately human and real, the sort of fucked-up speech you could imagine a man giving instead of an actual apology.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Whenever people talk abut how extraordinary a songwriter Taylor Swift is I feel like one of those obnoxious “read another book!” irony bros who descend on people reading YA. She’s not the only lyricist to be overpraised — Chris Stapleton is perhaps her counterpart in country — but maybe the one with the greatest gap between praise and reality, the most exponential of grading curves. “Betty” certainly isn’t awful; it’s just mundane. Writing from the perspective of a guy? Alight upon any Kate Bush album, or any given female novelist. Swift gives James a generosity and interiority that the average teenage boy lacks — the average actual James, asked to write about his actual Betty, would produce a blackbear screed. This means “Betty” is nowhere as creepy as it may have been from a man’s keyboard — the potentially stalky aspect of crashing Betty’s party and doorstep is played down, the assumption the guy’s the cause of and solution to her “broken wings” is the sole trace of male ego, and even the careful talking around cheating, the decisions that preceded “days turned into nights,” registers less. But this also makes “Betty” unconvincing as character writing: Taylor-as-James is indistinguishable from Taylor-as-Taylor. (Which may be the point, I realize.) The details, supposedly paid attention to, are alternately mundane and cliche; the money lines are borrowed (here, from Sam Cooke and Simon & Garfunkel). The “what if I showed up at your party”/”psyche, I actually did!” twist at the end is the stockest of stock — if it doesn’t have a name, I propose Vertical Horizoning — which lessens the effect. “Cardigan”/”car again” is the kind of rhyme Folklore may well have been written around, but too much of “Betty” is less craft than draft. As for the music, it’s even more of the beige filler it really seemed like Swift had finally torn herself from, except this time paired with a Charlotte Russe version of a Dylan harmonica and a chorus of soporific, unchanging “Tom’s Diner” singsong. The melody just drones, and perhaps if you’re being generous you could say it’s meant to resemble the drone tone of the apology a 17-year-old boy might make. But plenty of generosity has been extended already. In its league — teenage love songs for the Sarah Dessen set — “Betty” is decent, perhaps good. But the critical world’s elevated Taylor Swift to different standards; perhaps they should actually hold her to them.
[2]

Friday, September 25th, 2020

Blackpink with Selena Gomez – Ice Cream

Out of the ice cream van and into the fridge…


[Video][Website]
[4.40]

Alex Clifton: Behold, a list of sins in “Ice Cream”: 1) The backing track, which sounds like an out-of-tune ice cream truck circling the neighbourhood to spite me specifically. 2) “Sip it like a Slurpee” is not appealing in the slightest. Why couldn’t they have used literally any other word? 3) “Get it free like Willy” is a pun, I guess, but is this sexual innuendo or a plea to get the subject to unleash their love like an orca? I’m very confused. 4) “Play the part like Moses” is evidently meant to set the standard for the love interest because “if you can’t part a sea, then you can’t party with me,” but I’ve never heard of Moses referred to as an ideal boyfriend, and frankly I never wanted that mental image anyway. 5) Ice does not live in the fridge, but the freezer. I don’t care if it fits the meter better. Ice melts if kept in the fridge. Selena undermines her entire point here. 6) Jisoo only gets two solo lines and it’s the most exciting bit of the song because I have to listen for them. When one of your main band members gets fewer lines than the featured artist, it doesn’t look great. #justiceforJisoo 7) “Get it, flip it, scoop it” is sexual but also boring and mystifying. I recognize I’m taking everything pretty literally at this point to underscore the lameness of the central metaphor, but “scoop it” does not pique my interest. Scoop it is a terrible pickup line. Selena goddamn Gomez should never have to tell anyone to scoop her. Neither should you, so please don’t start using this as real slang. 8) “Get the bag with the cream if you know what I mean.” I don’t have the FOGGIEST as to what you mean! Cream doesn’t come in a bag. Is the cream money? But the girls of Blackpink are the ice cream in this metaphor. Are they ice cream made of money? I am genuinely befuddled. 9) This is not, nor will it ever be, the greatest K-pop song ever written about ice cream, so I have no idea why Blackpink was sent down this road anyway. 10) The post-chorus is a new intrusive thought on par with “do you ever feel like a plastic bag” and yet this is still, somehow, not enough to deter me from holding out hope for the entire album creatively titled, uh, The Album. Anyway, thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
[3]

Brad Shoup: The Cher Lloyd revival continues apace!
[8]

Kayla Beardslee: Sure, this demo sounds pretty terrible, but the production will be filled out and the lyrics polished up before it gets released, right?
[1]

Alfred Soto: This compendium of secondhand pleasures is irresistible. Not a single person sounds as if she has (a) heard an ice cream van (b) tasted ice cream. Instead, Blackpink and Selena Gomez have heard friends describe ice cream vans and ice cream and recreated imagined delights — a bit like how, say, Talking Heads imagined Joy Division.
[7]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Previous Blackpink singles felt like getting hit in the head with a brick of sound. “Ice Cream” feels like getting hit in the head with a brick of sound, but FUN! This is the most Selena Gomez has improved a song since she fixed up “Psycho Killer.”
[5]

Michael Hong: It doesn’t beat you over the head with a gaudy hook, but it hooks you in all the same with its coyness. Lisa still raps “chillin’ like a villain yeah ra ra ra” because of course she does. There are at least a handful of other awkward English lines that probably could have been sidestepped if they weren’t so bent on capturing the US market, but oh well. Selena Gomez sounds like she’s having fun for the first time, but Blackpink, like BTS, would do a lot better if they didn’t compromise to appeal to the West.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: I wasn’t that big a fan of “Countdown” the first time around; adding “Bang Bang” and the same icky sweets innuendo of multiple K-pop songs past doesn’t help. Blackpink and Selena Gomez try their best to sell this freezer-burned pint.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: Like a bag of Skittles, this is a rainbow sugar rush, but ultimately just amounts to empty calories. The track is too basic and there’s a little too much Gomez for my taste. 
[5]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Another Selena Gomez track, another song where none of the metaphors make sense. You don’t have ice cream when you’re “thirsty”! You usually don’t dip, much less “double dip,” ice cream! What the hell does “diamonds on my wrist, so he call me ice cream” mean when ice cream doesn’t have icicles coming off it? What kind of double entendre could “get a bag with the cream” possibly be? In the past, her odd declarations have charmed me; this Blackpink collaboration just seems sloppy in comparison. 
[3]

Jessica Doyle: Bekuh BOOM has gone on record to take credit for a lot of the lyrics of “Ice Cream,” and good for her for getting her name out there, but that means taking credit for a song that can’t decide if “ice cream” is a metaphor for sexual availability, or sexual unavailability, or conspicuous consumption. (The exception to the rule: “You’re the cherry piece, just stay on top of me,” which is exactly the cheerful smuttiness that the song seems to be aiming for.) Also, apparently we all keep ice in the fridge, not the freezer. Also, “part like Moses.” But at least it’s an actual song, rather than a chant coasting on Jennie’s ability to glare. Also, Jisoo is cute.
[4]

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

Paul Woolford & Diplo ft. Kareen Lomax – Looking For Me

-diocrity…


[Video]
[4.83]

Will Adams: Diplo continues to be more tolerable as a faceless house producer than in most of his other five thousand projects, but even this is flimsy. He and Paul Woolford keep the piano pump at a bare simmer, while Kareen Lomax, whose solo work is far more interesting than this suggests, has her vocal processed to mush and set adrift an underwritten topline.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: This feels like a sketch, a demo, something being worked on in the studio — not a finished product. It’s got the basic (very basic) bones of an average 2020 UK house track, but nothing’s on ’em. Even Lomax sounds like a scratch vocal.
[4]

Brad Shoup: I think it’s to the producers’ credit that they don’t aggressively cast Lomax’s pitch into either direction, but maybe I’m still thinking the traps of five years ago are today’s. She sounds great, shuddering the I in “I heard you been looking for me”: a great, ambiguous line for a club track. But there’s no space in this place for her grand reveal, just a sunblind house production with a couple spangles from 30 years ago.
[5]

Tobi Tella: Trying to bring back house, lands more at apartment. It’s 2020 and slight lyric chopping and faux-soulful vocals can’t make your song interesting.
[3]

Juana Giaimo: Well, I guess their aim is to make another hit like this — it worked once, but I hope it doesn’t work twice. Kareen Lomax’s voice really captures Tracy Chapman’s way of singing — slightly trembling, her cadence like a soft cascade — but for that same reason lacks personality, especially when compared to her own songs
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: A vast, spacious panorama of regret and redemption where all reverberates, right down to the chinks of ache in Kareen Lomax’s vocalisation. The picture is painted masterfully, yet structurally something is missing. They’re gazing towards enormity, but not finding much to say about it.
[7]

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

Saweetie – Tap In

Unmissable?


[Video]
[4.67]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: A poor sequel to both “My Type” and “Blow The Whistle.” Unlike on “My Type,” Saweetie’s 2000s revivalism here feels rote — the sample doesn’t get flipped so much as laid upon, and you can hear the Too Short in her flow too strongly. It’s not bad, but beyond Saweetie’s charisma and the residual goodwill the sample brings there’s not much going on here. Putting Jack Harlow on the remix subtracts via addition.
[5]

David Moore: Well, she fucked around and brought back hyphy. And it’s a pretty good song, don’t you think? Made me laugh to beat the band. Parts, anyway.
[6]

Brad Shoup: More crunk nostalgia in a sense, now filtered through an imperial-phase Lil Jon hyphy production for Short Dog. It is absolutely all about that chorus.
[6]

Will Adams: I’ll give that “My Type” was enough of a success to justify rehashing the mid-’00s-Lil-Jon-sampling formula, but God, what a downgrade to have Dr. Luke produce the follow-up. Where Lil Jon’s original beat stayed nimble and open to ornaments like synth string hits, shakers and whistles, Luke bulldozes it all with an overblown kick and stale percussion. It’s no wonder Saweetie, giving only about 20% effort to begin with, eventually taps out.
[3]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Yes, this song is great, but have you ever watched Saweetie explaining the exercise implications of “lil waist, fat ass,” her financial reasoning behind banging men with “eight figures,” or the meaning of “zaddy”? I promise that this is nine minutes of your life you won’t regret. 
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Every fourth YouTube comment is a variation on “I thought this was Iggy Azalea.” I truly can’t come up with a better pan.
[1]

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

AJ Tracey & Mabel – West Ten

AJ Tracey and Mabel have shared their location with you…


[Video]
[6.00]

Scott Mildenhall: You Londoners and your fancy compass-point postcodes. Having those letters all SEWN up may well engender complacency, because AJ Tracey doesn’t seem to see fit to veer too far from “Ladbroke Grove”, a road that itself extends all the way to W11. Credit to Mabel for a hook that sounds archival, albeit no more enduring than the fumes on which Tracey is running.
[6]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: So obviously a re-do of “Ladbroke Grove” that it’s kind of impressive — AJ Tracey knows that he’s at his best when he is slotted in between a chopped up R&B singer hook and garage revival production. It’s a wash overall — Mabel still hasn’t sung a note that hasn’t sounded derivative of a more talented vocalist, but Take a Daytrip make excellent work of the beat, repurposing the ice cream truck arpeggios they used on “Mo Bamba” to give “West Ten” downward momentum on the hook. Tracey himself has improved as a rapper, bobbing and weaving between the clattering chaos of the beat — he’s in his element, and sometimes repetition is worth it.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: I am 100% here for a UKG revival, esp. with Mabel singing choruses and AJ Tracey sounding like a lost member of So Solid Crew. 
[7]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: At the risk of sounding like I’m being intentionally difficult, “West Ten” is an interesting listen for me because of my prior conceptions of the two artists involved. That is, I’ve always liked AJ Tracey’s rapping but simply thought he’s been attached to subpar songs; and I’ve never liked Mabel, but always though her music has been at least decently produced. “West Ten” slots perfectly in the middle of these two opinions: AJ Tracey’s verses are decent but his hooks are banal, and Mabel sounds as dull as ever, but over a nice beat. 
[4]

Brad Shoup: A duet with overlay: I like that, as a rule. When they intersect, the track finds a couple higher gears, especially paired with that raindrop motif, parceled out three notes at a time.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Why do they collaborate — because they realized they had little to say by themselves?
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Are there Mabel stans? I remember in 2009 being baffled at how critics found Rihanna blank or personalityless, especially after Rated R. Are there people reading the same thing about Mabel and being equally confused? Maybe they could tell me the way into “West Ten,” on which both she and AJ Tracey are perfectly genial and competent, and forgotten within seconds.
[6]

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Tiwa Savage with Sam Smith – Temptation

Go on…


[Video]
[6.43]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Listening for the first time, I have to admit that I was nervous; which force would dominate — Tiwa Savage and her collection of immaculate Afro-beats, or Sam Smith and their unfortunate tendency to emanate existential dreadfulness when doing to hard for a ballad? I’m happy to report the former won out: “Temptation” is a delightful truffle of a song, rich in vocal delivery from both participants and surprisingly harmonious in its collaboration.
[7]

Juana Giaimo: Being honest, I thought Sam Smith would be more annoying in this. I’m glad they could control their high-pitched voice, but I still find that something is lacking here. I guess she is trying to be more accessible to western culture, but it’s a rather plain track (the chorus seems especially weak and repetitive) that passes unnoticed.
[6]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Sam Smith has always had a gorgeous voice that has been best used outside of the balladry that they achieved solo success with. Here, they adapt to afro-pop with grace and skill — they don’t blend into the production aesthetics, but instead soar in with the measured bombast. Tiwa Savage is the more natural sounding performer — she sounds about as good as she always does, which is to say she sounds very good — and her strong work on the hook allows for her guest to shine.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: By now I’m convinced Sam Smith might just be better as a guest than a solo artist; “Temptation” is their best since “Promises.” I’m reminded of Dawn Richard, in the vocal layering, and Everything But the Girl, in the lush arrangement and the way Smith and Tiwa Savage’s vocals approximate Tracey Thorn from different directions.
[7]

Alfred Soto: The arrangement is pretty if sedate: saxophone peals blow like an ill wind, the percussion goes flippety-floppety, and neither Tiwa Savage and Sam Smith sound bothered, much less tempted.
[5]

Brad Shoup: A soprano sax smears a rising note halfway through Smith’s verse and I’m transported across the Kozway. The beat drips like a leaky roof, and the final 20 seconds dissolve into the same mist from which “Right Here, Right Now” emerged. A Balearic circling seduction, significantly aided by Smith gamely pairing their smooth-R&B melismas with Savage’s micro trills.
[7]

David Moore: Millennial schlock is prominent on the nostalgia industrial complex radar, so I’m thinking a Wild Things bid for straight-to-streaming prestige schlock. This swampily seductive track would add a dash of class to the proceedings, Sam Smith included.
[6]

Friday, September 18th, 2020

The Killers – Dying Breed

Seriously though, read Alfred’s review, it’s fantastic…


[Video][Website]
[6.43]

Alfred Soto: My vision of The Killers demands Technicolor excess: men and women writing in the dust like Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones in Duel in the Sun. I give’em credit for interpolating Can, but Brandon Flowers must have sensed “Dying Breed” needed something other than cauliflower rice Springsteenisms. 
[6]

Kayla Beardslee: My best friend is a huge fan of The Killers, so when I was walking around my neighborhood listening to their new album for the first time — appreciating the bright, soaring production, the wide mixing, and Brandon Flowers’ nod-and-smile lyrics — and I heard the beat of “Dying Breed” suddenly kick down the door two minutes in, of course I immediately fumbled for my phone, screenshotted the song and timestamp, and texted her my excitement. And of course she responded five minutes later, happy I was listening to the album and knowing exactly what I was referring to. Sure, “Caution,” “My Own Soul’s Warning,” and “Imploding the Mirage” bottle pure exuberance a little more successfully for me, but what more could I ask for from “Dying Breed” than that moment?
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: A little over half of this sounds like Brandon Flowers is possessed by Björn and Benny, the rest like he’s accompanied by a malnourished Thomas the Tank Engine. Scored accordingly.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: It sounds like Brandon Flowers is singing to a click track for the first two minutes, and then “Dying Breed” breaks into yet another of The Killers’ patented Springsteen-via-New-Order fantasias. At no point does this grab me.
[3]

Alex Clifton: Classic Killers in all the right ways: bright synths, a hearty guitar line shot through at the right time, and resilience in the face of all life’s trials. Why rework the formula?
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: Why make a rock opera when you can thread the songs through your career for a ready-made jukebox musical? It remains forever us against the elements, the sometimes mystical, sometimes all-too-human elements, and if you feel it then you must dig in, because Wendy, you’re a star, with those butterflies to mine. As two bursts of distortion rumble against the ambivalently exultant finale, however, there’s a rare sense of conclusion: it’s as if a rocket is launching to finally extricate The Killers from the desert.
[7]

Juana Giaimo: In Alfred’s review of Imploding the Mirage, he talks about Brandon Flowers’ fanaticism for the bombastic and tacky ’80s. It sounds so different to today’s music trends (it’s not even the fun and danceable ’80s of Carly Rae Jepsen). The Killers couldn’t be further away from the minimalist production, hushed vocals and melodies influenced by hip-hop, and they seem to know it, because “Dying Breed” sounds incredibly nostalgic. It starts quiet, slowly grows until the chorus blows up and, as if that wasn’t enough, the bridge is even more grandiose, screaming of fireworks and melodrama. Brandon’s voice is suddenly desperate and lost, but of course, what keeps him on track are memories of the past — “Then I remember the promise I made”. Yes, he is ready to die, but it’ll be with glory. 
[8]